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Business Alerts

2017 Federal Budget: Lots of Words, Few New Measures

A principal theme of this Budget is the need to improve Canada’s lagging performance on private sector innovation, with the federal government directing funds to stimulate growth in six key innovation-based industry sectors and pledging to develop a handful of “super clusters” across Canada.

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BC Budget 2017 Analysis

Budget 2017 is a good news budget. While it falls shy of being a “something-for-everyone” document, it does announce some useful tax/premium reductions along with increased spending in a number of high priority areas. It also extends the province’s track record of sound fiscal management. Apart from the risk stemming from the high debt load of certain Crown corporations, Tuesday’s budget reinforces BC’s top notch credit rating.

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Federal Budget Delivers on Liberal Campaign Commitments...But Little New for Business

In his inaugural budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau ushered in a new era of higher federal spending and sizable deficits. It is important to take note of the current context: a Canadian economy that’s still struggling to adjust to dramatically lower oil prices and a generalized downturn in global commodity markets. We should also take account of the federal government’s solid baseline financial position. Even with a string of deficits, the federal debt/GDP ratio is projected to remain essentially flat over the next half decade.

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The 2016 BC Budget: High Marks for Fiscal Management...
But BC Must Do More to Improve Competitiveness

Unveiled by Finance Minister Mike de Jong on the afternoon of February 16, Budget 2016 tells a generally upbeat story of British Columbia’s economic performance and fiscal health. Economic and job growth are running above the national average, and BC is one of only two provinces expected to post a balanced operating budget (or surplus) both this year and in 2016-17.

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Federal Election Economic Policy Primer

British Columbians and the rest of the country go to the polls on October 19.  In voting, they will help to set the course for the nation’s economy in 2016 and over the rest of the decade. In this pre-election briefing document, we outline some of the BC business community’s priority issues, both for the election itself and for the agenda of the federal government that Canadians will choose on October 19. 

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Business Alert: No Change in WorkSafeBC Average Premiums for 2016

WorkSafeBC recently announced that the average “base premium rate” in 2016 will be unchanged from 2015, continuing the pattern from last year. The average rate charged to employers is being set at $1.70 per $100 of assessed payroll, exactly the same as in 2015. 

This should come as welcome news for the employer community, particularly in light of a seeming onslaught of government-mandated and/or policy-driven cost increases in so many other areas (Medical Services Plan premiums, fuel taxes, electricity rates, water rental charges, environmental assessment fees, etc.).

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Lower Canadian Dollar Dampens Cross-Border Shopping

In early 2013 the Canadian dollar was trading approximately at parity with the American greenback.  Then the Loonie started a gradual descent to its recent level of 81 cents US.  A 20% depreciation of the Canadian dollar vis-à-vis the US currency has significantly changed the relative prices of traded goods and services.  Many exports from BC shipped into the US are suddenly more competitively priced. The opposite is true for imports coming into the province from the US. 

Cross-border shopping effectively amounts to individual consumers doing their own “importing.” With the devalued Canadian dollar adding an additional cost of 20% (and more after paying fees to convert currency), a large portion of the savings on items purchased stateside that existed when the Canadian dollar was at parity has now been eliminated. So the number of British Columbians venturing into the US, unsurprisingly, has diminished.

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Amid an Oil Price Collapse…The Harper Government Delivers on its Balanced Budget Promise

The steep drop in the price of oil and related impact on federal finances prompted the Conservative government to delay bringing down the Budget. But despite a $6 billion hit to Ottawa’s revenues, Finance Minister Joe Oliver was determined to meet the government’s commitment to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2015-16, after seven years of red ink. Doing so required adding some modest amounts from asset sales and shrinking the contingency reserve, but in the end the government managed to erase last year’s small deficit ($2 billion) and is forecasting a razor-thin $1.4 billion surplus for 2015-16.

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BC Budget 2015: Few New Measures...But an Era of Surpluses Lies Ahead

The benefits of BC’s diverse and resilient economy were evident as Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a Budget on February 17 that calls for a modest surplus for 2015‐16, followed by slightly larger surpluses in the two subsequent years. This places BC in the position of being possibly the only province to balance its books in the coming year. Fiscal circumstances, however, remain tight, and the Budget featured few new spending or taxation initiatives. Spending increases that did make it into the Budget were concentrated in health care and to a lesser extent education, along with a few targeted measures aimed at lower income households. The government opted to advance capital spending over what it had planned last year, in line with the Business Council’s advice.

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BC Budget 2014 - Balanced and Uneventful

Operating within a very tight fiscal framework, Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a budget on Tuesday that projects a small surplus for fiscal 2014-15, followed by larger surpluses in the two subsequent planning years. Given the limited fiscal maneuvering room, the Budget contained only a handful of modest spending measures and a few small tax initiatives. Notably, there was nothing major in the area of skills training.

While some commentators will be critical of the limited spending increases, we recognize the accomplishment of keeping the budget in the black without imposing significant tax increases – something few other provinces are managing to do. Running surpluses puts BC in a strong fiscal position, especially at this juncture of the business cycle.  The Business Council believes BC’s competitive position has eroded in recent years. Although fiscal circumstances prevented the government from cutting or restructuring taxes, this is an area the province will have to address in the future as some BC industries face challenges linked to the province’s move back to the antiquated Provincial Sales Tax (PST), while others are grappling with the steepest carbon tax in North America, skilled labour shortages, onerous municipal property taxes on industry, and steadily escalating electricity costs. 

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Federal Budget 2014 -
Following Through: No Surprises Federal Budget Moves to Surplus

Getting back to surplus remains the cornerstone of federal budgeting. With the deficit having swelled to more than $55 billion in the aftermath of the 2008-09 Great Recession and Financial Crisis, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget that has the government on the cusp of returning to the black. This is an admirable accomplishment, one achieved without any significant tax increases and involving a hefty dollop of restraint after spending had been ramped up during and after the recession.

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2013 Federal Budget: A Combination of Following Through, Fiscal Restraint and Some New Funding for Priority Areas

Against a backdrop of softer economic conditions, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a budget still centered around achieving the Conservative government’s 2015-16 balanced budget target. To meet that objective, the Budget imposes meaningful but not draconian spending restraint. In turn, this left little capacity for much in the way of new spending or tax relief. The Budget does, however, direct additional funding to a few priority areas such as skills training and infrastructure investment.

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Pull Back in Resource Sectors Tempers Overall Capital Investment in BC

The release of Statistics Canada's annual Public and Private Investment survey indicates that capital investment in BC is poised to edge higher in 2013. In aggregate, businesses and government plan on investing $46.9 billion on new residential and non-residential structures, industrial sites, drilling activity, machinery and equipment and all other new capital outlays this year. This represents an increase of 0.9% over 2012. Looking at only the non-residential segment, planned investment is slated to fall slightly (by 0.4%) this year. Despite the slumping housing market, BC developers who responded to the survey reported that they intend to boost residential investment spending by 3.6% this year. There is probably some downside risk to this projection given the ongoing slowdown in housing market activity.

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A 'Balanced' but "Challenging' Provincial Budget

In his inaugural budget, BC Finance Minister Mike de Jong delivered on the government’s long-standing promise to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2013-14. While some additional funding is provided for health care and a smattering of small-scale initiatives in support of the government’s Families First agenda, meeting the balanced budget target overshadowed all other aspects of the budget. Eliminating the fiscal shortfall of more than $1 billion on schedule required a combination of tax increases, provincial asset sales, and a hefty dose of spending restraint.

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2012 Federal Budget: Fiscal Restraint with New Policy Directions

Business Alert
Reflecting the precarious nature of the economic recovery, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered a budget with few new tax measures, a moderate amount of spending restraint, and a plan to return to fiscal balance over the medium term. From our perspective it is a prudent budget that trims spending sufficiently to balance the books by mid-decade, while not tapping on the fiscal brakes too hard. While the federal workforce will be reduced, overall the level of restraint is such that critics will be hard pressed to claim that it will undermine the economic recovery.

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Resource Industries Drive Investment Spending Higher in BC

Business Alert
The release of Statistics Canada’s annual Public and Private Investment survey provides information on recent business capital spending and affords a useful glimpse into where and how much BC businesses are planning to invest in the coming year. The latest survey predicts a healthy increase in capital spending in 2012, and confirms that business investment will be a significant economic driver in the province. It also underscores the important role that resource industries and related infrastructure development are playing in the growth of BC’s economy.

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2012 BC Budget: Fiscal Caution Amid Economic Turbulence

Business Alert
Against an unsettled external economic backdrop, this week’s provincial budget saw Finance Minister Kevin Falcon reaffirm the government’s commitment to balance the operating budget by fiscal 2013-2014. Meeting this objective – which is mandated by current law – will require downshifting spending growth to about half the pace set during the years preceding the 2008-09 recession. While it featured a few new measures, the dominant theme of Budget 2012 is spending discipline while seeking to maintain core government services. To help address funding pressures across the provincial public sector, resources continue to be reallocated to higher priority areas such as health and education, and efforts to find efficiencies within existing budgets are accelerated.

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